Thursday, 20 September 2007

Snail Mail

"Researchers have found that three of Britain's rarest snails cannot move quickly enough to adapt to changes in their wetland habitat," according to this article in the Daily Mail.

It seems that, being a bit tardy, "the shining ram's horn, the little whirlpool ram's horn and the largemouthed valve snail, each smaller than a little fingernail, are sliding towards extinction in the UK. "

Gosh. Really? Fancy that! The article goes on to record for posterity how Professor Steve Ormerod, a researcher at Cardiff University, looked for the three species in four areas of marshland in the South East and examined 100 drainage ditches in the process.

What a cracking way to spend a weekend, grubbing about in drainage ditches looking for snails! And, now that the good Professor has performed this invaluable public service, does anyone actually give a damn whether the wretched snails are, might be or will become extinct?

I certainly don't. My only interest in snails is keeping the slimy little devils out of the flower beds, and if mass snail extinction could be arranged I, for one, would be very pleased to hear about it.

Besides, there's nothing very unusual about species facing extinction because their environment is changing - that's the whole thrust of Darwin's evolutionary theories; circumstances change, and species adapt to them or die out.

Yet, apparently, the study "strengthens fears about the survival of the snails, already considered threatened." What tosh! There is no need to "fear" the demise of a few molluscs so rare that hardly anybody will ever have seen one anyway. These boffins should be taking the opportunity to observe evolution in action and trying to learn a little more about the way the world works instead of wringing their hands in fluffy-edged environmentalist grief.

Change is inevitable. In fact, it's a fundamental concept, built right in to the heart of life on Earth. Without change, the evolutionary process would be superfluous. And without that, humans (and those pesky snails) would never have evolved in the first place.

It strikes me that the whole conservationist approach is fundamentally flawed. Why try to preserve something that is failing, when failure and extinction are as important to evolution as success and proliferation? It's nonsense, and amounts to just the kind of meddling in natural processes that the green brigade so deplore in other circumstances.

Of course, the Greater Bearded Tree Hugger doesn't see it that way, but that's ok. Soon enough, he (and, in some cases, she) will be as extinct as the species they now mourn, out-competed by common sense and basic science. Somehow, I can't imagine many folks mourning their passing.

Billy Seggars.


Anonymous said...

"never mind

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, Billy....

For a 70's child, you have such a lot of reading to catch up on. Start with the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development - which made the rest of us aware that current species extinction rates are 100-1000 times faster than at any time in the last 4 billion years. Imagine that? First, it'll be no cod and chips. But later, there'll be just pigeons, rats, bird flu and dead gorillas where there used to be jungles. Course, you could just scratch your arse and tell yourself it has nowt to do wi' you.

Go hug a tree, Billy. You know you want to.